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"Cabaret" at Citadel Theatre shines with strong cast and choreography

Cassie Johnson as Salley Bowles with Kit Kat Club Boys
Cassie Johnson as Salley Bowles with Kit Kat Club Boys
Citadel Theatre and North Shore Camera Club

'Cabaret' at Citadel Theatre

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You know the songs: “Cabaret,” “Maybe This Time,” “The Money Song,” and “Wilkommen.” You know the theme: the amoral atmosphere of Berlin and nightclubs such as “Cabaret’s” Kit Kat Klub in 1929-30 when it wasn’t safe to be Jewish. But as familiar as the music and story are, every company’s production is different. So it was with great interest that I attended “Cabaret” at Citadel Theatre’s production in Lake Forest on the heels of the Marriott Lincolnshire production. Both were excellent. But they were different.

Marriott has a deservedly fine reputation for its choreography. The surprise in the current Citadel production is how choreographer Rita Simon uses Citadel’s tiny stage to perfectly mount Kit Kat Klub Boys and Kit Kat Klub Girls numbers.

Another surprise is the brilliant interpretations of Michelle McKenzie-Voigt as Fraulein Schneider and Bill Chamberlain as Herr Schultz, “Cabaret’s” older couple who find love late in life only to have it snatched by Nazism. The show’s bonus is Chamberlain’s exceptional voice.

You know how the major part of Emcee should look and act, but at Citadel, Dominic Rescigno plays the role as if born to it. Cassie Johnson is delightful British Kit Kat Klub star Sally Bowles. And Kraig Kelsey, a regular at Shakespeare festivals across the country, is very believable as the American novelist Clifford Bradshaw.

Indeed, the entire show, directed by Robert D. Estrin using the 1998 Roundabout Theatre version, is very well cast and staged. The show also has more obvious homosexual expressions than in some productions.

Under the music direction of Randy Casey, the band is cleverly tucked behind a mobile screen on stage that adds to the feeling that everything in “Cabaret” is in flux.

Based on a play by John van Druten from stories by Christopher Isherwood, the story unfortunately is still as timely as when Joe Masteroff wrote the book, John Kander the music and Fred Ebb the lyrics for the original 1966 production.

Details: “Cabaret” is at Citadel Theatre at the Lake Forest School District’s West Campus, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest IL 60045, now through May 25, 2014. For tickets and more information visit Citadel Theatre or call 847-735-8554.